Out Ta Get Me
This was the soundtrack of my ride today - Out Ta Get Me, from Appetite For Destruction.
(The bleeping out on this version of the song is really subtle - even if you’re not a G’NR fan, it’s worth watching for the awesome audio edit )
So, to my ride today - visiting a client on the Team Valley. About a 30 mile round-trip across all sorts of conditions, from traffic-free to crazy mayhem roundabouts. After recent comments, I thought I’d try a different, more gutter-hugging kind of riding, so as to keep out of the way of important people going about their motorised business. After all, I could have been wrong all along, and it might have been me that was the muppet on the road, cycling like Angry Kid, oblivious to the mayhem and frustration I was leaving in my wake.
And in 30 miles, I clocked up four near-misses:
- Approaching some parked cars on my side of the road, I was partially overtaken by a lorry. The driver then realised that there was a bus coming the other way, and pulled in to let the bus through - oblivious to the fact that I was alongside.
- Going down Bensham Road - the big hill from the top of Gateshead, I had a driver turn right in front of me (US & Europeans reading this - remember that we drive on the left in the UK). Bearing in mind the hill, this was close enough to cause the braking reflex to do its stuff & bleed a little speed off, though he’d have probably got through without impact if I’d just steered around the problem.
- What I didn’t see coming though was another car following, turning right across my lane, whose driver saw me only just in time. Locked wheels all round from him, and my heart beating like Peter Marwood’s f**ked clock. This was one of those near misses that you keep reliving for the next few hours - if the driver hadn’t stopped in time, I’d have hit the bonnet at something over 20mph. Not a pretty thing to consider.
- On the way home through Newcastle, there was a car doing a three-point turn (or for pedants - “a turn in the road, using both forward and reverse gears”) in the road ahead of me. As I was approaching and slowing, the driver was pulling out from the kerb on my side of the road, leaving a gap that might have looked big enough to get a van though. The driver of the white van approaching from behind me certainly thought so, and made a spirited attempt to get through on his obviously important errand. I’m not sure if he saw me and thought he could just shoulder past anyway, or if by this point on my ride I was in fact totally invisible.
The thing that bugs me about these events is that any one of them could have killed me, while leaving the driver concerned with no injuries at all (unless I’d managed to accurately skewer the passenger compatment of either of those right turning cars - I’ll bet that the Pashley’s weight and point loading would test their survival cells’ integrity!), so the drivers’ perception of the potential consequences are significantly different from my reality. That they didn’t end in disaster is something that you could ascribe to luck. Except I don’t believe in ‘luck’ - just probability, and the certainty that eventually it will catch up with you, if you’re prepared to ride the millions of miles required to convert a scant chance into a near certainty.
I still maintain that riding a bike is a safe way to get around. The UK’s roads are amongst the safest in the world (well, fifth safest in Europe anyway), and most drivers are considerate, well behaved (though casual speeding and mobile phone use are pretty much endemic), and aware of what’s going on around them. The problem is that riding a bike on roads crowded with vehicles weighing fifteen times your weight is very much like flying - inherently safe (due to the generally good driving), but very unforgiving of mistakes.
So, overall - is being a gutter bunny safer than asserting your position on the road?